Thursday, November 20, 2003

Austin Powers in Goldmember
Review by Sombrero Grande

When I saw the first Austin Powers movie, I didn’t think much of it. It had a few funny moments, but that was about it. Later on video I started growing a new appreciation of the film as some of the jokes seemed to get funnier with each viewing; indeed it wasn’t until Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery was on video that many people started warming up to Mike Myers’ take on the fish-out-of-water storyline adapted into the ‘60s spy spoof genre. Frau’s little monologue about Lucky Charms, Mustafa being very badly burned, and basically any of the antics in Dr. Evil’s lair made the Austin-driven lameness seem bearable. With The Spy Who Shagged Me I was equally as underwhelmed by everything except for, again, Myers as Dr. Evil, and the addition of Verne Troyer as Mini Me, so I didn’t go in to see the third installment in the “saga” with very high expectations.

When Austin Powers in Goldmember began I was amazed. The opening sequence of the film is arguably the funniest sequence ever in any Austin Powers movie. It blew me away. I was excited, thinking that now I was about to see some really clever, original spoof material. Unfortunately, all too soon, Austin begins strutting around the screen for the opening credits, spouting catch phrases like a lawn sprinkler does water, and nearly every joke that was in either of the first two movies slowly parades in front of us like non-stop face-slaps. In fact there is SO MUCH joke reuse in Goldmember that even the hilarious opening sequence is REPEATED AGAIN AT THE END OF THE MOVIE! And it’s not as funny the second time around, just like all the other jokes we’ve seen before.

Why such a heavy reliance on repeating what went before? Perhaps it was necessary seeing as how (with the one very notable exception of the opening) all the “new” material Myers cooked up for Goldmember just isn’t funny. The subtitles against a spotty white background could have been funny if A) the phrases were a little more clever and integrated better into the story (“I have a huge rodent problem”? You’re really reaching there, Mike.) and B) Foxy Cleopatra didn’t beat us over the head by pointing out and reading each subtitle long after the audience already has seen it.

Looking for another example of bad new material? Wait until the title character is introduced. I have no clue what Myers was hoping for with Goldmember. The movie dies a painful death every time he walks on screen. He’s just not funny. At all. Period. Each of his “quirks” is more groan-inducing than the next. From his annoying accent and the amount of time spent on belaboring it (i.e. the discussion of “fasha”), attributing stupid sayings (“’That’s the way, uh-huh uh-huh, I like it.’ – KC and the Sunshine Band”), his really flexible hip joints, to eating his own skin (THIS is supposed to be funny?!) there is not one redeeming “eccentricity” about this character that produces even one laugh.

If the movie dies when Goldmember appears, it is reborn whenever Myers takes the reins of his greatest comedic achievement: Dr. Evil. If only Mike would realize what the rest of us who have seen these movies know: people don’t flock to theaters to see Myers as Austin—Dr. Evil is the driving force behind this series. It seems like great pains are taken to find ways to make Austin interesting in each of his movies, while Dr. Evil naturally shines and electrifies these otherwise bland films whenever he pops on screen. In Goldmember, Austin’s father is introduced and the main plot revolves around his and Austin’s relationship, absolutely none of which is interesting. The character of Austin Powers is nothing more than a bunch of catch phrases combined with a distinctive look, despite all the “depth” that Myers keeps trying to shoehorn into him. Dr. Evil is more. What Myers and director Jay Roach need to do is stop with the Austin movies and make a Dr. Evil TV show. Think about it: every week Dr. Evil unveils another grand scheme to take over the world (this will all take place chronologically before Goldmember since at the end of the movie it’s revealed that Austin and Dr. “Dougie” Evil are, in fact, brothers and Dr. Evil turns good. I have no qualms about giving away this particular plot twist because it is, in fact, stupid). Dr. Evil, Frau, Scott, Number Two, Mini Me and the whole gang can provide some of the great ad-libbed comedy that the “lair” scenes in the movies are known for and Myers can play whatever new characters he wants to as “special guests.” At the end, in true Gilligan’s Island or Pinky and the Brain fashion, Austin foils Dr. Evil’s plans in a short cameo appearance and Dr. Evil begins plotting for next week’s inappropriately named plan (along the lines of “Preparation H” or “The Alan Parsons Project”). The Dr. Evil Show. Think about it, Mike.

A nice thing I will say about all Myers’ performances in Goldmember is that at no time during the entire movie did I ever get the feeling I was watching Mike Myers, not even when he was interacting with himself as other characters. Chalk it up to acting, directing, makeup or whatever—it works.

Myers takes on four—count ‘em—four roles this time around, which reminds me of the fact that Myers seems Hell-bent on cramming as many new characters into each progressive Austin Powers movie as possible. The result is that when Austin, Dr. Evil, Scott Evil, Mini Me, Nigel Powers, Foxy Cleopatra, Goldmember, Frau and Number Two are all in one scene together, poor Frau and Number Two become nothing more than scenery. Maybe they’ll just end up in the background of the next Austin Powers movie where each scene has the potential to look like the cover of The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”

As much as I disliked Austin Powers in Goldmember, I would definitely see a fourth Austin Powers movie. I might even get out to see it on opening night. “What?” you shout at your computer, “Sombrero Grande, you hypocrite! Haven’t you been paying attention to what you have been writing?” Look at it this way: in what other film series could you possibly find such gleeful wackiness as a giant submarine in the shape of its captain, a clone 1/8th the size of his original, sharks with frickin’ laser beams attached to their heads (this movie has ‘em) or a United Nations room filled with Canadian Mounties, sumo wrestlers and mountain climbers in lederhosen? The Austin Powers movies take great joy in being zany, silly and downright nutty. Unfortunately, so few other products of Hollywood today do. Austin’s world may not always be very funny, but it certainly can be fun.


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